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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The settlement of Dyer County continues

Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Though there is some information about the settlement of Key Corner, less is known about the second settlement of Dyer County. This settlement is attributed to George Davis, William Martin, Jerry Pierce and Willis Chamberlain. It is not certain if this settlement had a name, though it seems clear that Martin's Landing was one of the early landmarks. The landing would have been located on the Forked Deer River, south of what we now call Powell's Road. We known the settlement was established around 1821 and was very near present day RoEllen, but the name Roellen would not be applied for many years.

This early group would have settled close to the landing because of their transportation needs. It has been reported that the Miller family came ashore at the landing when they first arrived in Dyer County, somewhere between 1823 and 1829. The first official mention of Martin's landing was in 1874, when county records mentions Martin's Landing Road that ran to Rehobeth. Across the river and southwest from the landing stood another early landmark known as Nash's Bluff.

The Martin Family

The landing was evidently named for one of the first settlers, William Martin of Davidson County. William, the son of James and Winnie Martin, was born in March 1793, and married Sally Pierce, daughter of Thomas Pierce. Martin was listed as Dyer County's first register of deeds and also served as one the county's first magistrates. In 1825, William was chosen as one of the commissioners to lay out and sell lots in the new city of Dyersburg, and owned one lot himself according to the 1836 tax list. Samuel Cole Williams, an early West Tennessee historian, believed that Martin also helped select Dyersburg as the county seat, but it seems more likely that Capt. William Martin of Weakley County had served on that commission. The Pierce Family

Another early settler was Jeremiah Pierce, or "Jerry" as he was sometimes called. Jeremiah was born in Bertie County, North Carolina in 1790, but like the Martin family, had recently immigrated to Dyer County from Davidson County. Jeremiah served as a Captain of the 20th Tennessee Militia Regiment of Davidson County in 1813, but his unit was not called to active service during the war. On Nov. 19 of that same year, Martin married Sally Pierce. The couple was living in Davidson County as late as 1820. In 1827, Jerry was again elected captain, but this time of Dyer County's 85th Militia Regiment. Jerry and Sally had a son, Captain Albert Pierce, who married into the McCulloch family. Another Pierce who seems to have been connected with the same family, was Joseph Pierce, who lived in the same district. According to the 1840 Census, Joseph was engaged in manufacturing. At first it was unclear what Joseph was making until consulting his application at the Masonic Lodge, where it indicates that he manufactured saddles, since his occupation was given as saddler.

The Parker Family

Another prominent settler was Daniel E. Parker, the son of a Revolutionary War veteran. Parker had been born on June 9, 1789 in Halifax County, Virginia. Though Daniel did not arrive in Dyer County until 1826, he quickly became involved in community affairs. Parker helped lay out the civil districts of the county in 1836 and, like Jerry Pierce, was elected captain of the 85th Regiment. On the following year, Parker had been a member of the Trenton, Dyersburg and Mississippi Turnpike Company, which would have passed through his neighborhood. It is unclear how successful this venture was, but evidently the new road became the foundation for what would later become Highway 103 and Highway 104. In the same year Parker was selected to sit on a commission to improve the navigation of the Forked Deer River. By 1840 he was a well-established farmer, but was also teaching 12 students in a one-room schoolhouse in his spare time. Two years later Daniel was also elected magistrate for his district. There was also another Parker in the district by the name of Isaac. Isaac had been elected 2nd Lieutenant of the local militia in 1827 and was appointed postmaster of the community of Haleysburg from 1837 until 1841. Haleysburg would be renamed Grove Mount after Isaac was replaced as postmaster.

The Fizer Family Another member of the Trenton, Dyersburg and Mississippi Turnpike Company was John B. Fizer (sometimes called Fiser). Fizer, the son of Michael Fizer, had arrived in Dyer County from Robertson County, Tennessee, at an early date. Fizer seems to have lived a bit further north than the other settlers did. He was said to have come to Dyer County to locate land grants and was appointed the first surveyor for the county. We known he was elected lieutenant colonel of the 85th Regiment in 1834. In 1837 he was elected state representative from Dyer and Obion Counties. Three years later he owned a commercial business in downtown Dyersburg and applied for membership in the Masonic Lodge. Colonel Fizer would return to Robertson County and later move to Mississippi.

Another member of the same family was Colonel Fizer's nephew, John C. Fizer, whose father, M.D. Fiser, had served as a member of the Dyer County Court. M.D. Fiser and his family relocated to Panola County, Mississippi about the time of the Mexican War. Mr. Fiser died in Panola before September of 1852 and left John Rodgers to administer the land that he still owned in Dyer County. Young John then moved in with Colonel Fizer, who by that time was a prominent citizen of Mississippi. At age 15 he began clerking at a country store on the banks of the Tallahatchie River. He left his home in Panola about three years after his father's death and relocated at Memphis. While in this city, he was engaged in the cotton and Mercantile business, but soon the Civil War began and John became a General in the Provisional Army of Mississippi.

The Purcell Family

Another early family was the Purcell family, who, like the Parker family were from Halifax County, Virginia. Henry L. Purcell was an ensign in the Dyer County Militia as early as 1825. Dr. Osborne Purcell married the daughter of William Bowen and represented Dyer County in the convention of 1841. Later that year he entertained Sen. James K. Polk at his home, when Polk became ill on the campaign trail.

Next week we will continue the story of early Dyer County.

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Regarding your recent interesting article: I believe that Jeremiah Pearce, brother of Sally Pearce Martin (William Martin' wife) was Pearce with an "e-a" and not with a "i-e". I say this because of extensive research at the TN State Museum and Archives and the Nashville Public Library exploring early Dyer County federal census reports. I am the son of the late Blondale Robbins Harris (1904-1999) and the great, great, great grandson of WIlliam Martin (1793-1857), pioneer settler of the second settlement in Dyer County in 1820-1821 as documented in the chapter on Dyer County in Goodspeed's HISTORY of TENNESSEE. Jeremiah Pearce's name is misspelled in the Goodspeed publication if you feel the recorder in the 1830 Dyer County federal census was correct. Early federal censuses of Dyer County relate Jeremiah Pearce's name spelled thusly. He was known by his neighbors as "Jerry." My cousin, Jere Pierce, son of Howard and Maureen Smith Pierce, resides in Newbern and is a prominent Dyer County landowner. A family document does speak of Sally Pierce, daughter of Thomas Pierce and his wife Celia spelled "i-e" and not "e-a". However, would you consider the 1830 recorder of the census correct in recording Jeremiah Pearce's name? Most likely, over the years the spelling of the family surname was changed in usage. In a May 4, 1876 article in the Nashville DAILY AMERICAN, the donation of a battle ax and a James Robertson bandsaw to the TN State Historical Society by the two surviving daughters of William Martin through an intermediary, E. B. Mason of Jackson, TN, is reported. Why through Mr. Mason is puzzling. There are inconsistencies in that article. It is difficult to present my comments in this limited format without giving a rambling, poorly constructed description. Exploring the history of Dyer County and the contribution of my family is a fascinating effort. I welcome comments by other genealogical afficionados. My father, the late Charles Wesley Harris (1901-1959), was a Mergenthaler linotype operator and compositor in your newspaper in the days when LeRoy Ward was publisher and Russell M. D. Bruce was editor. He in later years was on the staff of THE NEWBERN TENNESSEAN where about 1911-1912, he found his very first job and was a childhood friend of the sons of the founder, W. W. Glass: William Quintard Glass and Leonidas Polk Glass, friendships that lasted throughout his life. Is there any one out there who might have knowledge of these early Dyer County residents? Further to the spelling of our Pierce surname: the listing of my great, great, great, great grandfather, Newsom Pierce Sr. in the roster of the 6th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line lists him as Nieusom Pierce. However, in his last will and testament written in the beautiful, neat handwriting of the time and probated in the September 7, 1820 session of the Nottoway County Virginia County Court, he is listed as Newsom Pierce. Ah the halcyon but conflicting days of yore!

-- Posted by Charles R. Harris on Thu, Sep 10, 2009, at 9:26 PM

In the September 10th STATE GAZETTE article, William Martin was described as the first register of deeds. In the May 4, 1876 article in the Nashville DAILY AMERICAN, he was described as the "first County Trustee elected". Perhaps register of deeds was the title of the office in earlier Dyer County days.

Searching available records of Dyer County cemeteries, I have not found the burial site of William Martin. The DAILY AMERICAN article states "William Martin died in Dyer County, April 18, 1857, eight miles south-east of Dyersburg, where he then resided." Would present residents of that section of Dyer County have knowledge of the burial site of my ancestor?

-- Posted by Charles R. Harris on Thu, Sep 10, 2009, at 9:46 PM

I am very interested in finding out more about the Pierce's or Pearce's in Charles R. Harris' family tree. There may be a connection with his Pierce's (Pearce's) and mine. My great-grandfather's name was Thomas Ulysses Pierce (born about 1859 and died in 1944). Through some research, I have discovered that his parents were Edward Archer Pierce (b. about 1825 in Tennessee and died in 1867 or 1868)and Emily J. Myers Pierce (b. about 1836 and died either at the same time as Edward or a few years before). In the probate records for Edward Archer Pierce (1868)--he had three heirs: William Wallace Pierce (born about 1857 or 1858), Thomas Pierce (my g-grandpa), and Paul (who may have been Charles Paul) Pierce (born about 1862). William Wallace was residing in Mississippi Co., Missouri and Thomas and Paul were residing in Dyer County, Tennessee. That makes me think that Thomas and Paul Pierce were staying with relatives in Dyer Co., TN. Edward Archer Pierce was a physician living in the James Bayou township in Mississippi Co., Missouri in the 1860 census.

We have done a DNA test, and we matched to Group V in the Pierce DNA Project--Southern States. Jeremiah Pierce(born in 1710 in Essex Co., Virginia) is the first ancestor listed in the group we match with. We also match to some Pace's in the Pace Society of America.

Hope to hear back from Charles R. Harris. Thank you.

-- Posted by Gale 2 on Sun, Jun 6, 2010, at 7:01 PM

5:12PM CDT Friday August the 5th.

I have finally been successful in creating an account from which I can respond to postings on the "State Gazette" web site.

This response is for "Gale 2" who posted a response at 7:01PM

on Sun. Jun 6, 2010.


Charles R. Harris

-- Posted by CharlesH on Fri, Aug 5, 2011, at 5:14 PM

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